'Flood and Fang' is narrated by Edgar the Guardian of Otherhand Castle who it seems is the only sane one among the inhabitants of the castle.
'Castle Otherhand is home to all sorts of oddballs, lunatics and fruitcakes'
and when Edgar spots something nasty in the castle grounds he is right to sense trouble. Unfortunately the other inhabitants of the castle don't have any sense at all and it is left to Edgar to come up with a rescue plan before the Otherhands run out of maids and the castle, who has decided to become involved, successfully brings its own plan to fruition!
The writing is such that the book demands to be read aloud and the language does not talk down to either reader or listener, so it will be up to any adult reading to supply definitions of meanings and phrases for the young listener. However, the book works on several levels so that there is humour for child and adult alike:
'Maybe it's her hair. It's long and black, as black as the feathers of old Mrs Edgar; black and shiny as coal, right up to the very day she fell out of the tree and the dogs ate her. Happy days.'
And whilst the Raven swear words will pass clear over a young listeners head Mum or Dad will know exactly what is being said.
A hugely enjoyable book which is not just for the independent reader - it is a little slice of Gormenghast for the young!
But it is what happened next that caused one of those eureka moments. Son the Younger who is seven picked up the book and started to read it, about 15 pages in when I asked how he was getting on he said 'Why is her voice like warm milk?' I mentally did a war dance of triumph whilst trying to explain imagery and metaphor in a way he would understand. A book like this is a rare thing to be cherished and deserves every bit of attention that it can get.
Finally a word about Pete Williamson's illustrations which appear on every page of the book, they enhance the reading experience no end and it is to be hoped that the future books in the series (at least five) will be as funny and knowing and as beautifully illustrated.
I would urge everyone with a 6 to 8 year old in the house to buy this book and grandparents to give it to their grandchildren!